From Executive Director Janet Varon
Advocates have sought many improvements to public health coverage over the years, but I remain extremely proud of our work to Cover All Kids. The work spanned over a decade and became a family affair; as a young child, my daughter Becca once joined a Children’s Alliance delegation of kids who proudly lobbied for the state to adopt the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – by delivering some tasty chocolate CHIP cookies to then-Governor Locke.
The crowning achievement of our children’s health advocacy over many years – “Cover All Kids” – was worth the wait.
Ten years ago, our state passed landmark legislation to create Apple Health for Kids – a unified, comprehensive coverage program open to all Washington children in families now earning less than $73,800 per year (for a family of 4). We are coming together this week to celebrate this accomplishment, but the program’s future is at risk due to political gamesmanship.
Northwest Health Law Advocates worked with other children’s health advocates for years to create this seamless approach for Washington families. Apple Health for Kids was designed specifically for our state. It streamlined the eligibility process for families and children applying for Medicaid and pulled all Washington kids who live in families with incomes below three times the federal poverty level under one umbrella program. We know that all children deserve access to the health coverage that allows them to achieve optimal health. No child in Washington, no matter where they were born, should grow up unable to get needed health care.
Due to this landmark law, nearly all kids in Washington have health insurance. Fewer than 3% remain uninsured statewide. There is more work to do to reach the remaining families to ensure all children have health coverage.
Apple Health for Kids’ unique approach is dependent on Medicaid working hand in hand with the the CHIP program to help children and families get the care they need to stay healthy and succeed. Unfortunately, distractions and partisan fighting have prevented Congress from reauthorizing CHIP – and the Apple Health program is at risk. We hope that they will come together and work towards securing the future for Washington’s kids so that we can celebrate another decade of ensuring access to health care for all kids.
Things have changed for the better since Becca was a kid. I hope that current and future generations of children continue to benefit from good health coverage, thanks to the progress we’ve made in Washington.